Let us show you just how fast and easy preparing seafood can be.
Almond-Crusted Tilapia
Credit: Ralph Anderson

Cooking fish is easy. I know, because in 20 years as a seafood marketing expert, I cooked an ocean of it. Along the way, I landed basic knowledge that will help anyone cook fish confidently. Here are my top three tips.

1. Be sure the fish you buy is in premium condition. Frozen fish that's carefully thawed can be excellent, just as poorly handled fresh fish can be awful. Unless you live on the coast or in a large city, most seafood (except salmon) will have been frozen. But even if you live in a tiny town, good fish can be as close as your supermarket or wholesale club.

Here's the secret: If you're not happy with the fish in the seafood case, ask for some that is still frozen. Or purchase bags of individually quick frozen (IQF) fillets. Thaw as many as you need in the refrigerator overnight or in a tightly sealed plastic bag under cold running water if you're in a hurry. It is best to cook fish the day you bring it home, but you can refrigerate it (on ice) for up to 48 hours.

2. Don't overcook. When you insert a fork in the thickest part, the flesh should be opaque nearly all the way through. A tiny streak of pink in the center is okay; the fish will continue cooking off the heat. Ten minutes of cooking time per inch of thickness is the rule of thumb, but start checking at eight minutes just in case.

3. Keep it simple. It's hard to beat perfectly sautéed, baked, or grilled fish paired with a simple sauce or topping. (And because most of us will be doing our own cooking, that's a good thing.)

Start with the Basics
1. Serve Almond-Crusted Tilapia with grits and sautéed vegetables for a well-balanced meal. The healthy fat in the almonds boosts the great nutritional value of the fish.

2. Make the salsa a day ahead to have Pan-Seared Trout With Italian-Style Salsa on the table in 15 minutes.

3. Crispy Baked Cod is simple and kid-friendly. There is little cleanup in the preparation.

4. Cut meaty fish such as grouper, wreckfish, and snapper into strips for easier cooking.

Here's to Your Health
Two servings of fish a week offer tremendous health benefits. Fish is low in cholesterol and has modest amounts of fat. Salmon and mackerel offer omega-3 fatty acids, which help stave off heart disease and arthritis and are great for brain function. But large fish can have high mercury contents due to pollution. Even small quantities of mercury can be harmful to pregnant women and small children. Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, all of which are high in mercury. Even canned albacore has more mercury than light tuna. To learn more about mercury content and the benefits of seafood, visit www.mayoclinic.com.